Last Updated Aug 30, 2021, 10:04 AM

Saturday's Late Tips

Playoff Results | Playoff Projections

Western Conference First Round – Game 3- Rockets lead 2-0
Houston at Minnesota (ESPN, 7:35 p.m. ET)

After receiving a slight scare in their Game 1 victory, the Rockets pressed the gas in Game 2 on Wednesday and captured a 102-82 victory over the Timberwolves as 10 ½-point home favorites.

Houston trailed 23-18 after the first quarter but outscored Minnesota by 20 in the second stanza and led 55-40 at halftime. The Timbewolves couldn’t buy a shot (39%) and surprisingly, neither could the Rockets (36.5%). The difference was triples and Houston connected on 16 albeit they took 52 from distance while Minnesota was 5-of-18 (28%) from 3-point land.

Chris Paul led Houston with 27 points and Gerald Green contributed with 21 points of the bench, which was needed with James Harden having a horrible shooting night (2-of-18). Knowing the Rockets still won the game by 20 points and Harden had only 12 points makes you believe this series will end in four games.

The oddsmakers certainly believe so, listing the Rockets as -20000 favorites (Bet $100 to win 50 cents) to win the series while the long shot takeback on the Timberwolves is listed at 30/1 odds (Bet $100 to win $3,000).

For Game 3, Houston opened as a three-point road favorite and the number was quickly pushed up to -5 as was the total from 213 to 214 ½.

Snapping a 13-year playoff drought was expected this season by Minnesota and it achieved that goal but Tom Thibodeau’s team just doesn’t match up well with Houston and that’s clearly evident when you look at their recent head-to-head meetings.

Including this series, the Rockets have won 18 of the past 20 encounters against Minnesota and that includes a 9-1 mark since Tibs arrived. The Wolves did hold a 4-0 ATS run in his rookie coaching campaign but the Rockets have covered five of the six meetings this season

In the two games played at Minnesota this season, Houston earned 129-120 and 126-108 victories as road favorites while the ‘over’ easily cashed in both games.

A lot of the blame for Minnesota in this series has been directed at Karl-Anthony Towns and deservingly so. His plus-minus of -21 was tied for worst on the team and he finished with five points on 2-of-9 shooting. That effort came after scoring just eight points in Game 1 on 3-of-9 shooting. NBA expert Tony Mejia believes the third-year big man out of Kentucky will show up on Saturday evening.

He explained, “An aggressive Karl-Anthony Towns will undoubtedly show up since his ears have undoubtedly been burning over the past week due to how disappointing he’s been. He hadn’t had consecutive games with single-digit shot attempts since back-to-back losses in Atlanta and Toronto to end January and bounced back with a four-game stretch where he made 40 of 56 shots, which included going off for 35 points on the Rockets. He’s more comfortable at home, so at least keep that in mind before pounding the road favorite, which is what human nature is likely telling you to do given how lost the Timberwolves looked in Houston.”

Bettors wavering on the side or total can always invest in Player Props on Towns and not surprisingly his numbers (23 PPG, 12.8 RPG) at home were much more productive in the regular season.

It’s hard to delve into playoff angles for Minnesota since its last trip came in 2004 but the homecourt proved to be valuable as the Wolves went 8-2 SU and 5-5 ATS during that postseason run which ended in a six-game series loss to the L.A. Lakers in the Western Conference Finals.

If you’re looking for an angle to play the Wolves in Game 3, you could point to Houston’s weak playoff record on the road since Harden arrived in the 2012-13 season. The Rockets are 6-16 SU and 11-10-1 ATS as visitors. They’ve only been listed as favorites twice during this span and they’ve gone 1-1 SU and 0-2 ATS while the ‘over’ was 2-0 in those games.

As mentioned above, the total has been moving up and we’ve got a Best Bet featured on Game 3.

Game 4 will take place at the Target Center on Monday.

Western Conference First Round – Game 3 - Series tied 1-1
Oklahoma City at Utah (ESPN, 10:05 p.m. ET)

The 4-5 matchup in the Western Conference was expected to be the tightest first round series and the opening two games have lived up to that billing. Oklahoma City captured Game 1 116-108 last Sunday and Utah rebounded this past Wednesday with a 102-95 victory in Game 2 while cashing as a three-point road underdog.

Utah rookie Donovan Mitchell continued to build his resume by dropping 28 points on Wednesday and 13 of them came in the fourth quarter. Meanwhile, Oklahoma City’s “Big Three” of Russell Westbrook, Paul George and Carmelo Anthony went a combined 0-of-14 in the final 12 minutes as the Thunder were outscored 28-16 by the Jazz.

Both the Jazz (41.7%, 31%, 79%) and Thunder (40%, 31%, 67%) struggled shooting from the field, 3-point land and the free throw stripe. Outside of OKC scoring 33 point in the third quarter, neither team had much rhythm as the ‘under’ (208 ½) connected.

The key for OKC is Westbrook and Mejia is hesitant to back last year’s regular season MVP when you delve into his current form.

“Russell Westbrook is shooting less than 39 percent in the series and again faded down the stretch, so this shooting slump he’s been mired in over the past five games is threatening to be a season-killer. He’s shot just under 35 percent in splitting his last four meetings in Salt Lake City since Kevin Durant left town, so recent history doesn’t bode well for a resurgence,” stated Mejia.

He added, “Unless he figures out how to beat a great Jazz defense without the benefit of a jumper that can no longer be relied upon, Utah is in position to take control of the series. Finishing with 13 assists and just three turnovers in Game 2 is a positive sign since the Thunder are going to lose unless he can get both Paul George and Carmelo Anthony going after they posted a bagel in Wednesday’s fourth quarter.”

For Game 3, oddsmakers opened Utah as a 4 ½-point home favorite with a total of 207 and both numbers have held steady.

The Jazz closed the season 15-5 at Vivint Smart Home Arena but they weren’t profitable (9-11 ATS) at the betting counter. Plus, only seven of those games came against playoff teams and they were a pedestrian 4-3 versus the tougher competition.

The Thunder weren’t a great road team (21-20 SU, 17-23-1 ATS) by any means but it went 8-4 in the second-half of the season and two of the losses came by less than four points. As a road ‘dog, OKC went 6-5 and the point-spread never mattered which could make you believe the money-line (+170) is the better option in Game 3.

Oklahoma City certainly has different faces on this year’s squad but it enters Saturday’s matchup with a six-game road losing skid in the playoffs. On the side of the court, Utah hasn’t been much better. In last year’s postseason, Utah went 1-4 both SU and ATS at home.

The series price opened OKC (-135) Utah (+115) and those odds have flip-flopped to Utah (-135) OKC (+115) after the split.

The pair will meet again Monday in Game 4 from Salt Lake City.

Chris David can be reached at [email protected]

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